With tensions between the U.S. and North Korea at an all-time high, there are genuine fears that Kim Jong-un’s determination to become a nuclear force could lead to war. Throughout 2017, the North Korean military has continued to conduct missile tests each more successful than the last. As reported by CNN, North Korea has conducted 16 missile tests this year, firing 23 missiles in the process. The most recent test, of a Hwasong-15 missile, saw North Korea claim that they could now deliver a nuclear payload to the continental United States.
It has been widely reported that intense activity around North Korean military sites indicate that Kim Jong-un is planning another missile or nuclear test before the end of the year. Against this background, the Daily Express reports that U.S. and South Korean troops have just wrapped up a major military exercise in the region. Operation “Warrior Strike” saw the two nations practice plans to seize and disable Kim Jong-un’s nuclear arsenal before he has the opportunity to use them.
As reported by the New York Times, President Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, provided the clearest evidence yet that the U.S. is preparing for war with North Korea. Speaking at a conference discussing the Korea crisis, Tillerson let slip that the U.S. has given China assurances over any invasion of North Korea. Tillerson made clear that Donald Trump would order U.S. troops to war if his hand is forced.
Tillerson also said that if the U.S. invaded North Korea, “we have given the Chinese assurances we would go back and retreat back to the south of the 38th parallel” as soon as the objectives of any invasion were reached. As reported by the BBC, Tillerson’s stance on North Korea has hardened in recent weeks. Tillerson has ruled out North Korea placing preconditions on any talks and has said that recent provocations mean that Kim Jong-un must “earn the right” to any future talks.
President Trump has made it clear that he sees China and Russia as the key to resolving the North Korea crisis. With Trump and Vladimir Putin reportedly calling each other every few days, in some sort of mutual admiration exercise, you would perhaps assume that the two leaders are as one over North Korea. According to Newsweek that is not the case.
Last week, President Donald Trump said that “China is helping, Russia is not helping” efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear arms programme. Now Russia has fired back with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warning Trump that the U.S. and North Korea “must start talks.” Despite rigorous United Nations sanctions, Russia continues to trade with North Korea, and they advocate for a “dual freeze” agreement between the U.S. and North Korea.
Such an agreement would see North Korea freeze its nuclear weapons program and an end to U.S. military exercises, like the one conducted last week, and a rollback on U.S. militarization in the region. President Trump has repeatedly declared that such an agreement would be a waste of time.
Over the weekend, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton warned that Donald Trump could be put in a position where a pre-emptive strike against North Korea becomes necessary. According to the Express, Bolton believes that Trump will not be able to ignore the threat from North Korea “for much longer.”